dog walker with four dogs

Career: become a professional dog walker

If you are a dog owner, chances are you have hired a dog walker at some point. When I was working in an office, I hired a dog walker five days a week. My dog Thor needed someone to come by around noon daily. A dog walker allowed him to get some exercise, checked his food and water, and took him for a bathroom break. If you are in good shape and enjoy spending time with dogs, a dog walking job could be right for you. Check out the tips below to get started on your journey and you’ll be a professional dog walker in no time!

Hang out with dog owners

If you are a dog owner, you already have a leg-up here! I made friends with another dog owner one day in the dog park. Her dog Aspen loved playing with Thor. A few days later she was at the park with him again, and I mentioned I would be starting a new job soon. I needed someone to walk Thor during the daytime. She said “I can do it!” and a great friendship with almost two years of dog walks was born. Dog owners often chit chat with their neighbors while out walking. They may mention if they are looking for pet services.

If you are not a dog owner, no problem! Ask your friends and family members who do have dogs if they have ever used dog walking services. Let them know you are available as a dog walker, or mention dog sitting when they bring up vacations. Many people prefer if their dog can stay home with someone they trust. It also helps if their dog is in a home environment where they feel comfortable. Puppies or dogs with health issues may not be able to travel and need their usual routine. In the past, I hired a friend to stay in my home while I traveled to Singapore. I knew that this was not a dog-friendly vacation. I would be traveling on long flights. Like many countries, Singapore has a quarantine period for any visiting animals. So, I chose to leave Thor at home. This is a common scenario and some dog owners will be happy to hear you are available.

dog owners in park with small white dog

Be organized and reliable

If someone is trusting you to walk their furry friend, be sure to be responsible. Arrive on time, and if you are running late let them know as soon as possible. They may not have a backup walker lined up for that day if you cannot make it in time. This has happened to me where I had to arrange to work from home for the rest of the day. Luckily, my office was not too far away but this can be a major inconvenience. If you have some kind of emergency and cannot make it, let the owner know and offer to send someone else. Do everything you can to ensure you have a backup person in mind. This is especially important if you are running your own business.

Always respect the rules of the home. Don’t eat their food or invite your friends unless the owners invite you to do so. Keep organized with google calendar or a paper agenda. Remember if you have a good reputation, your clients will recommend you to others. Keep track of all keys, and label them if this makes it easier. Someone has entrusted you with their house keys and their furry family member. So, don’t let them down!

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Join an app or agency

If finding your first clients is challenging, working with a dog walking app or agency can help. In the past, I have hired dog walkers and a dog sitter through an app called “Rover”. Usually, I prefer someone I have a personal connection to, but sometimes things come up last minute. You can also check local ads in your neighborhood for dog walking services. Call them up and ask if they are hiring, they will likely expect you to have some experience with dogs. Asking if any of your connections can put you in touch with a professional dog walker is also a good way to go. Other dog walkers may have a full schedule. There may be clients who they could not fit in that they can pass along to you.

Remember, you can always be your own boss in the future. Getting your foot in the door when taking on a new professional experience is always the first step. If you are creating your own dog walking business, consider your startup costs. You may want to create an Instagram page and other social media accounts. You will need some business cards, and possibly a website.  If you want to do advertising, create a budget for this, and research the competition. Decide if you want to walk dogs full-time, part-time, or casually. Determine what you will charge per walk, and for other services like boarding or pet sitting.

Be an expert

If you want to become a professional dog walker, you need to know where the best dog parks in your city are. You will also need to know the pet shops, in case you need to pick up any extra supplies like treats or a new leash. Take the time to chat with employees and they may even have discounts available for dog walkers. If they have a bulletin board or a space to leave brochures or business cards, this can help you get the word out.

Learn which coffee shops don’t mind dogs and frequent areas where dog lovers hang out. This will allow you to network, and for the dogs, you walk to socialize. Consider volunteering at your local humane society or adoption agencies. You will learn so much about different dog personalities and you can add it to your resume.

It may also be beneficial to consider a dog training certification. A doggy first aid course would be a big plus. This will show you are serious about your work and professionalism. These skills will help in any difficult situation you may encounter with dogs.

dog being walked

Keep your clients happy

It’s important to establish good relationships with your clients. This means both human and canine! I was very lucky to be friends with my dog walker. I completely trusted her and her boyfriend when she wasn’t able to make it. I had no concerns with them going into my home, and I knew they adored Thor. Even though I work from home now, we still meet with the dogs for a group walk sometimes.

Don’t be afraid to be playful with your canine clients. Their owners will appreciate this! Always be understanding of different dog personalities. Your canine clients will have different needs. A young and active pup may take a bit more to tire out than a small senior dog.

Summary

A dog walking career can be a fun and rewarding job. You will be helping others in your community, and getting to know many dogs. Make sure that you get the word out, and don’t be shy to mention your dog walking services. Dog owners love to know there is someone out there they can reach out to! Build up your client base working solo or with an agency or app. Be someone your clients can count on. As you establish a good reputation, your client base will grow. Know your neighborhood dog spots. Consider training programs and volunteering to grow your skills. Becoming a professional dog walker will keep you active, and is also loads of fun. This can be a dream come true for a dog lover!

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